Leading the Pack: Business Plan Competition Awards Recognize Budding Experts

Imagine having to become an expert in an entirely new industry and creating a business plan for a company that is looking to enter or expand in Japan, all in just a few months. If this seems like a high bar to clear, you’d be right. But that’s what each participant in the Japan Market Expansion Competition, or JMEC, does as a part of their work in the program.

The competition was launched in 1993 by the Australian and New Zealand Chamber of Commerce in Japan, and over the years, this “mini-MBA” has grown to become a hallmark among the expat community and an opportunity for promising mid-career professionals to develop their business acumen.

All these elements of the competition were on display during the JMEC 29 awards ceremony on June 7, which was held at Tokyo American Club. More than 180 people—including JMEC alumni, team mentors and lecturers, and members of Tokyo’s business community—gathered at the gala event to celebrate the hard work of the participants as well as project clients, mentors, consultants, organizers and judges.

Special Mentions

Tom Whitson

JMEC Chairman Tom Whitson said, “JMEC 29 brought together 50 highly motivated participants from 14 countries who overcame language barriers and other challenges to cooperate in small teams to analyze market opportunities for JMEC project clients. They developed realistic business plans to crack the Japanese market—and their commitment and energy made them fun to work with. I want to congratulate all the participants for their dedication.

“The plans showed perceptive analysis and creative ideas to help our project clients. You have all truly earned your certificates as graduates of our JMEC business training program. On behalf of the JMEC teams, I want to thank the companies that sponsored projects, and our lecturers, team mentors and consultants, and judges who gave up days of their time to make this program a success.”

Three special mention awards were first presented:

The Best Market Research Award went to Team 8, for delving into a wealth of details on behalf of their project client, the global certification company TUV SUD Japan. The team was praised by JMEC representative Betsy Rogers for their impressive work with data visualization and the significant number of interviews they conducted. After the event, TUV SUD Japan President Andrea Coscia spoke highly of the group. “The JMEC team provided a well-structured EMC [electromagnetic compatibility] market analysis. We appreciated their multidisciplinary approach, from technical insights to organizational options and financial assumptions. The research represents an excellent starting point for our thoughts to further develop the EMC market in Japan.”

Meanwhile, Masayuki Ohara, company director and TUV SUD Japan’s primary liaison with their JMEC team, explained that “the JMEC team members picked up on the EMC industry very quickly, despite it being completely unfamiliar to them. We had very effective communication and were able to exchange our opinions throughout the research, which made the result much more meaningful and realistic.”

The winner of the Best Team Spirit Award was Team 11, which prepared a business plan for Tokyo American Club. Robert Heldt, a JMEC judge and the CEO of Custom Media said about the team that “this team demonstrated that the team is not made up of individuals who are perfect, but of individuals who are perfectly willing to support each other and strive together towards a common goal.”

The one individual award was the “Fighting Spirit” Award, which went to Ayako Oda, in recognition of her outstanding efforts and commitment to developing her client’s business plan under challenging circumstances. JMEC Judge Terrie Lloyd, an entrepreneur who presented the award, said that he would certainly hire Oda for one of his businesses if he had the opportunity.

Top Teams

The crowning part of the event was the announcement of the three top teams, and the winners were as diverse as the cohort of participants. First prize went to Team 7, who developed a business plan for WAGO Japan, a Germany-headquartered manufacturer of components for electrical connections and for automation controls electronics. After the event, Jean-Eric Neidhardt, the senior vice-president and COO at WAGO Japan, was enthusiastic about the team’s work. “We had a great time participating in the 29th JMEC competition and having an independent team with a neutral approach proved to be valuable. The team accepted the project challenge with enthusiasm and the final plan they produced is truly outstanding. WAGO Japan will definitely use this high-quality work to further investigate and develop our growth scenario.” The team won Hewlett Packard laptop PCs and a one-year membership to the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan (ACCJ).

The second-prize winning team was Team 12, which produced a business plan for the Soudal Group. Based in Belgium, the group is the largest independent European manufacturer of sealants, adhesives, and polyurethane foams for professional and private users. The members of Team 12 won domestic air tickets to any destination in Japan and a one-year ACCJ membership. Finally, rounding out the top three, Team 9 took home third prize for their plan for the American School in Japan. Their prizes were eye-catching satchels from the German brand BREE and ACCJ event vouchers.

The audience then enjoyed the traditional JMEC buffet and drinks with lively conversation and networking until late.

To learn more about JMEC, visit https://jmec.gr.jp/ 

(Photos by Life.14)

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